Slow but Reliable vs. Fast but Less Dependable
Producers and processors have traditionally relied on culture-based microbial tests to help evaluate whether production environments are hygienic. Even though such methods can be reliable, especially if action thresholds are adjusted over time through continuous improvement, they are also time-consuming and retrospective. The advent of ATP measurement allowed manufacturers to partially bridge the gap between reliability and speed. Moreover, it allowed them to take better focused action through targeted cleaning. With results available in almost real-time, action can be taken (→recleaning) prior to surface use or subsequent disinfection. Although ATP measurement became a well-established method to monitor cleaning, it cannot be used as a replacement for microbiological tests. The rationale behind ATP monitoring is different, offering proactive and targeted cleanliness management, based on the supposition that areas high in ATP are likely to also harbor microorganisms. As most companies also sample for microbiological tests, they often discover that this supposition is not always accurate. The output from ATP monitoring instruments depends not only on the nature of the soil, but also on the presence of detergents or disinfectants. Some of the commonly used chemicals, such as quaternary ammonium compounds, can cause the enhancement or the quenching of the ATP signal, which may lead to considerable over- or underestimation of the level of organic soil.